Missouri wildlife officials announced recently that turkey hunting prospects for the state are looking up for the third time in four years. After a noticeable decline in turkey numbers from 2007 to 2010, experts say that the state’s population has been steadily rising since 2011. Every year a wild turkey brood survey is conducted by citizen volunteers and biologists, who tally turkey hens and their young throughout the state. That data is then analyzed by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to determine the number of poults, or recently hatched turkeys, who survive. A good hen-to-poult ratio means that the population is not only continuing to be successful, but will have more turkeys in the future. The results of this year’s survey shows the largest rebound, measuring 21 percent over the five-year average and 26 percent greater than the 10-year average.
“Naturally, we are thrilled to see the turkey flock in northern Missouri showing signs of a rebound,” said Jason Isabelle, a resource scientist for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). “I’m hoping we can continue to build on the kind of production we saw this year, particularly in those regions. This year’s poult-to-hen ratios were higher than last year’s in eight of nine turkey-production regions, and the statewide ratio was up 31 percent compared to last year. That will translate into more turkeys in the woods for the fall hunting season.”
The greatest improvement occurred in northeastern Missouri, an area that Isabelle said was the most affected during the decline of turkey production over the last decade. He added that while the effects of the moderate population boom may not be visible for a few years, hunters can expect more gobblers on the field in a few years.
“Although this year’s hatch won’t have too much of an effect on next year’s spring harvest, it will result in an abundance of 2-year-old gobblers during the 2016 season,” said Isabelle. “Couple that with carry-over from previous years of improved production, and Missouri hunters have quite a bit to be excited about right now.”
Image courtesy Patty O’hearn Kickham/US Fish and Wildlife Service